The gospel lectionary reading for All Saints’ Day in Year A is Matthew 5.1–12, which is mostly composed of the set sayings of Jesus known as the Beatitudes, a name derived from the Latin translation of the opening term of each, ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’. These sayings are very well known, often being cited as favourite texts, and yet there are some serious puzzles that they present us with.
Why are there nine, with the last one seemingly tagged on at the end? Why is there a mixture of future and present tenses in the sayings? Why is one of the promises (about the kingdom of heaven) repeated—did Jesus run out of other good things to say? Are they encouragements under pressure, or commendations of virtue? More to the point, are they realistic, or are they (with the rest of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’) setting out an unattainable ideal?
Come and join Ian and James as they explore all these issues together.